Whole Grains could Melt Belly Fat, Fight Obesity

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Consuming whole grains could be an effective weight loss strategy to fight obesity and chronic disease. Dangerous belly fat is difficult to lose. There is some evidence that switching to whole grain foods could melt belly fat and reduce waist circumference.

Whole grains are nutritious and include the bran, germ and starchy part of the grain. Many foods include whole grains but are also mixed with refined grains; something scientists say might offset weight loss goals. Foods that could help melt belly fat and overall weight loss should list whole grain as the first ingredient. Some examples include bulgar, whole wheat flour, brown rice, whole rye, millet, whole oats, wild rice, buckwheat and quinoa. Popcorn is also a whole grain food.

Whole Grains Could Fight Obesity Epidemic

The rising incidence of obesity makes it important to consider dietary changes that can prevent increased visceral fat. The most dangerous health risks come from fat is thought to be in the mid-section. Researchers have found an association between eating refined grains and increased abdominal girth that can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease and possibly some types of cancer.

According to Nicola McKeown, PhD, from the Nutritional Epidemiology Program, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues, writing in the September 2010 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, "The economic burden associated with this epidemic is enormous, and estimated medical costs for an obese patient are 42% higher than for those who are normal weight." Observational studies show consuming 3 or more servings of refined grains daily can help with weight loss and reduce abdominal fat in addition to helping maintain normal body mass index.

Evidence from the Framingham study found study participants who reported eating whole grains had less abdominal and subcutaneous fat compared to individuals who consumed more refined grains. The study included men and women, age 32 to 83.

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Mixing whole grains in the diet with refined grains was found to offset the benefit of whole grains for reducing belly fat.

The study authors concluded "…adults who consume ≥ 3 servings whole grains/d have significantly lower SAT [subcutaneous adipose tissue] and VAT [visceral adipose tissue] compared with those who rarely consume whole-grain foods, but this beneficial association may be negated by higher refined-grain intake."

According to an interview with Medscape, Connie Diekman, MEd, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and immediate past president of the American Dietetic Association explains, "The bottom line is how the whole diet comes together.” She warns there is “no magic bullet” for weight loss. It's about keeping all grains to an appropriate calorie level — don't all of a sudden add whole grains on top of what you're already eating; make the shift from refined to whole grains."

Eating oatmeal at breakfast with low-fat milk and fruit can help you get started with your weight loss goals.

More research is needed to assess how of whole grains reduce belly fat. The observational study suggests gradually switching to whole grain foods could help fight obesity and curb risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.29106

Updated January 12, 2014